Christian History

The background and streams of influences forming Christianity

THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 13 THE BACKGROUNDS AND STREAMS OF INFLUENCES FORMING CHRISTIANITY BY SYEDBARKAT AHMAD The questions discussed in this essay have been debated actuely, for centuries past, by theologians and philosophers. In taking them up, the present writer is therefore likely to fall into errors that will seem elementary to his readers. He will certainly be treading on ground that is familiar and well-worn to them. He ventures, never- theless, on this inquiry in the hope that it may be of some interest to theologians to see how these old theological questions are appro- ached by a historian. In any case, theologians may perhaps find amu- sement in watching an unwary historian floundering in well-known and minutely charted theological morasses. Arnold J. Toynbee, Civilization on Trial The great philosophical poet of Rome, Lucretius, declares that nothing can spring from nothing. It is inconceivable for a historian of religion that Christianity or Islam, like another Minerva, can spring full- armed from the head of Jove – or in other words they can be entirely of divine and not of human authorship. In fact a revealed religion is not a product of human imagination. If religion is belief binding the spiritual nature of man to a supernatural being then human intellect alone cannot lead man to his Creator. What the founders of religions have taught has always been contrary to all contemporary trends. If the teachings of Jesus had been in line with the tendencies of his times, it could be said that he only gave expression to those tendencies. Instead, what he taught was very different from anything he found current. How out of place the sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ message of for- giveness must have appeared to the Jews suffering under the tyranny of Roman soldiers? To be precise, therefore, we shall deal in this paper with the back- grounds and streams of influence forming the interpretation of Christianity. THE BEGINNINGS The capital of Sumerien Empire, the ancient city of Ur was attacked and destroyed by the Elamite hordes in 1960 B.C. Among those who escaped the cataclysm was the Aramean nomadic family of Terah. Most 14 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS probably on his way to southern Canaan Terah died in Haran. His son Abram, who succeeded him, broke with the religion of his father, which in all probability included the moon-god, Sin, the chief deity at both Ur and Haran. Abram turned to the service of one God, who was essentially an ethical God to whom the doing of justice and righteousness was of supreme concern. The Old Testament does not tell us how Abram first arrived at this conception of ‘ethical monotheism’. Judaism arose out of the religion of Abram. It developed through law givers, priests and prophets amid disasters, deportations and persecutions. It was under the tolerance of the Persian monarchs that the Palestinian Jews built a new temple at Jerusalem which became the centre not only of the Jewish population of Palestine but also for the thousands of Jews scattered in Western Asia and Mediter- ranean Basin. THE HELLENISTIC CIVILISATION Persian rule came to an end in 333 B.C. when the all conquering Macedonian, Alexander the Great, took possession of Palestine. Alexander was no ordinary conqueror. He had a higher aim; it was to bestow the gifts of Greek culture — its arts and philosophies, its delicacies and graces upon the conquered people. A disciple of Aristotle, who aimed at the hellenisation of Asia, Alexander was partial to the Babylonian civilization, and his desire to resuscitate Babylon and make it the centre of a mightier and more complete civilization, led him to discourage all creeds and faiths which militated with this aim. Under the Seleucidae, whose religion was a mixture of Chal- daeo — Hellenism, the process of denationalisation was enforced with full vigour. Antiochus Epiphanes cruelly persecuted the Jews and Zoroastrians, both were placed under the ban and ostracised. The East provided its conqueror with several cults. The two world- influences came from Babylon and Egypt, Syria and Anatolia excerised only local influence. In Egypt Ptolemy Soter, probably the most far-sighted of Alexander’s generals, tried to fuse the Egyptians and Greeks into a homogeneous nation by the unifying bonds of a common religion and worship. The Greeks worshipped Zeus, Demeter and Apollo or Dionysus; the Egyptians, Osiris, Isis and Horus. With these oriental cults there was also a simultaneous influx of mystery-religions. As Tarn puts it the universal basis of these religions was that one sought soteria, ‘salvation’, “by personal union with a saviour god who had himself died and risen again; to employ the well-known Orphic THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 15 phrase, one ceased to be a worshipper, a rod-bearer, and became a Bacchus… you were as the god himself.”1 To quote Tarn again “these religions brought to the aspirant a new sense of sin, a new conception of holiness, and the rite of initation, cul- minating in the knowledge that you were saved, was undoubtedly an intense emotional experience.”2 The Greek faith revolved round the Passion and Resurrection of Dionysus; the Egyptian in the Passion and Resurrection of Horus,the Son. Since the main idea was maintained a change in mere names was not impor- tant. Thus was born the great cult of Serapeum. Serapis took the place of Zeus among the Greeks, of Osiris among the Egyptians. Of all the mystery religions which invaded the Hellenistic world the most important was the triad of Isis, Sarapis and Anubis. Among these three Isis was the greatest. Her cult seems to have produced a living and spiritual type of piety. To the ordinary decent woman the main facts of life were that she was wife and mother. Isis was both; she had been wife and the Mother goddess. The worship of Isis seized at once the fancy of the Roman people. The passionate grief at the suffering and death of Osiris-Horus, the joy at his resurrection appealed vividly both to the populace and the cultivated classes of Rome. But the Roman soldiers, inspite of Isis’ power on their emotions, held in special favour the more virile cult of Mythra, with all its mystical rites, its doctrine of atonement and its insistence on the direct touch of its God with humanity. Stoa was the philosophy of the Hellenistic world. It took under its shield both popular and astral religions together with a revived Platonism which was the distinguishing philosophy of the earlier Roman empire. With the decline of the City State, the Greek view of life had undergone a modifi- cation; a man was no longer merely a part of his city, he was an individual and as such needed new guidance. The founder of the Stoa, Zeno of Citium, “dreamt of a world which should no longer be separate states, but one great City under one divine law, where all were citizens and members one of another, bound together, not by human laws, but by their own willing 1. W.W. Tarn, Hellenistic Civilisation, (New York: The World Publishing Co., 1964) p. 354. 2. Ibid. 16 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS consent”.1 This Great City of Universe was ruled by one Supreme Power whome the Stoics envisaged under many aspects and names — Destiny, Zeus, providence, the Universal Law, Nature. But the Stoic Destiny differed from the terrible Babylonian Fate, for it was all-wise, and that which it decreed for men was best for them. It was indeed God, who made the laws which ruled it and He too obeyed the law He had created. He was a God of moral attributes and in the hands of religious Cleanthes. He is even a mer- ciful God. But everything was determined; and here the Stoics encountered the usual difficulty. Then there was another difficulty. As all men were citizens of one City, all ought to be equal, but in fact they differed in chara- cter, ability and circumstances. The Stoics could not admit either free-will or inequality and yet they had to accept both. So they went back to the root principle of reason, the Logos, which imparts form to matter. The Logos is conceived as breath which passes through all things, giving unity to the whole. It is ‘air in motion’, ‘fiery reason’ or Form—imparting fire’ permeating the universe and giving it articulation. It is the spark of the divine Fire, but the body is clay, therefore the body matters nothing. “Zeno said that all that had to do with the body — Strength and weakness, sickness and health, wealth and poverty — was matter of indifference; and this, in theory, remained their attitude throughout. The Stoic sage, the Wise Man, would neglect such things, and turn only to the things of the soul. But these were, or could be, the same for all men; the slave in the silver mines, brutalised in body, might still in his sould follow after Wisdom and be the peer of the philosopher or the saint. Men then were equal after all, for all, if they wished, could be equal in their souls; in that realm the beggar might be king.”2 Through Wisdom the Stoics also solved Determinism. Man had free- will, but it was his duty so to employ it as to approximate to the Divine Will. In proportion to his attainment of wisdom, he would recognise that the way marked out for him was the right way. The problem of happiness was also solved alongwith. Unhappiness arose from wanting something one had not got or could not get. The way to be happy, therefore, was to want what one got, that is, to go in accord with the Divine will. Virtue was the central point of Stoic ethics. The Supreme Power is not only all-wise but all virtuous; what it does is best. Virtue is essential if one wants to reach harmony with the Supreme Power. Virtue is happiness and its own award. 1. W.W. Tarn, Hellenistic Civilisation, p. 79. 2. W.W. Tarn, Hellenistic Civilisation, pp. 332, 333. THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 17 At first Zeno said that all that was not absolute virtue was vice, but since this rule was unworkable he modified it by granting a middle course, dividing things to be preferred and things to be rejected, the Stoic being bound to choose the former. But on one point Zeno was uncompromising; the intention to do evil was equivalent to doing it. Stoicism’s first postulate was that it was itself a moral system. It was in fact as much a religion as a philosophy, and a virile one. Man could get into harmony with wisdom and virtue, and in both these matters progress was possible; “the Stoic was thus led to examine the progress he was making, and the idea arose of conscious moral growth. Moreover the Supreme Power had had forethought for men and they had an aid on the path; there now appeared in philosophy the conception, heretofore a popular one, of conscience. Conscience and Duty were the cornerstones of Stoic ethics. Strength was needed to despise the things of the body, and on strong natures it acted as a tonic; the true Stoic, whatever else he was, was captain of his soul, or, in their phrase, autarkes, sufficient to himself. And he was master of his fate; fate could not hurt him, for what it brought him was what he would have chosen. But to all, strong and weak, it had a message, its insistence on the things of soul. Whatever the world did to you, in one sphere the world had no power; you could withdraw into your own soul and there find peace; for none could harm you there but yourself.”1 Bultmann puts it in another way. “The Stoic believes that it is poss- ible to escape from his involvement in time. By detaching himself from the world he detaches himself from time. The essential part of man is the Logos, and the Logos is timeless. So the Stoic concentrates exclusively upon his Logos being, thus rising surperior to all obligations and denying himself any future. But in thus repudiating the future, he deprives the present and the past of their temporal character as well. His present is unreal, for the essence of the present is that it is the moment of decision for the future. The only decision he has to make has been anticipated already. Of course, that deci- sion must be maintained, which means that it must be constantly re- newed.”2 Two vital things, however, were missing from the Hellenistic religions; immortality and love. Though Stoics gave the souls of the virtuous a limited survival, to Hellenism generally immortality was only for certain benfactors of their kind or the initiates in some mystery-religion; it was not for the mass of men. None of the Hellenistic creeds was based on love and humanity; none had any pessage for the poor, the wretched and the sinner. 1. W.W. Tarn, Hellenistic Civilisation, pp. 334,335. 2. Rudolf Bultmann, Primitive Christianity in its Contemporary Setting, (London and New York: Thames and Hudson, 1956), p. 144. 18 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS HELLENISM AND JUDAISM But the Jews, by and large, remained unaffected by the Hellenistic influence. They were strong enough to resist the impact of the victorious cultures. The opening declaration of the Book of the Covenant in stressing the redemptive acts of the Exodus1 expresses the fundamental religious truth of God’s activity in history. The prohibition of worshipping Nature, and its correlative, the making of ‘graven images’ established the distinctive character of Israel’s monotheism, which marks it off with sharp definition from all other forms of god-belief — whether polytheistic or monotheistic. The gods of all other nations were identified with Nature, and like finite Nature could be given form; the God of Israel transcends every phenome- non, and any plastic or pictorial representation of Him is but a lie and an offence. Few Greeks in this Hellenistic period ever managed to learn very much about the Jews but they “did seize on two salient facts: the Jew made no images of the gods, and by command of his law giver Moses did not practice infanticide.”2 Judaism rests on two basic doctrines, which are inextricably bound together, the belief in the One and Only God; (2) the election of Isreal to be the bearers of this belief.”3 ‘There is no assertion here of the Unity of God in the metaphysical sense. The idea of God as pure, simple being, belongs to the realm of philosophy rather than of religion. The negations are as emphatic and insistent as the affirmations. They negate all embodi- ments and motions of the Deity which, however refined and sublimated, veil the one and only God of Isreal more than they reveal Him.”4 All dual- istic and polytheistic creeds are excluded, however much they may be explained away so as to make them compatible with the one God in the metaphysical sense. Such creeds are a direct denial of the only God who, from the beginning, had chosen Isreal in His service.”5 Holiness, according to Epstain, is the keynote of the Torah.6 Its Hebrew equivalent Kadosh, expresses a quality consisting negatively in ‘separation from’ and positively in ‘dedication to’. It means that in its negative sense Isreal should abstain from all that is opposed to the will of God, and in its positive sense dedicate itself to His Service. Fundemental 1. Exodus 20. 22-26. All Old Testament references are to the Revised standard version. 2. W.W. Tarn, Hellenistic Civilisation p. 211. 3. This age-long primal confession of faith is beautifully given in the Deutero- nomic utterance, (6.4) known as the Shema (‘Hear!’) from the first word with which it begins. 4. Isidore Epstein, Judaism (Harmondswroth: Penguin Books, 1966), p. 134. 5. Ibid, 134. 6. Ibid, Chapter 3, pp. 23, 31, deals with this subject. THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 21 Judea with his espoused wife, Mary, where she gave birth to her first born son Jesus. We do not know how long Christ’s public ministry lasted. Most pro- bably, as the Fourth Gospel tells us, Christ preached for three years. The record of his brief ministry, which is now available to us, “originated in the seventies of the first century.”1 The earliest of the three Synoptic- gospels was probably written by Mark, the disciple of Paul2 shortly after A.D. 70. Although both Matthew and Luke have employed another source, Matthew “appears to have been subjected to more definite changes in the course of its history than the text of Mark, and there is the difficult ques- tion whether the sayings-passages, which are preserved either only in Matthew himself wrote.”3 So right or wrong the earliest and the most reliable account of Christ’s life and teaching that we have is written by a desciple of Paul. Does the Markan Gospel together with the “Special Matthaean” and “special Lukan” material give us the essential and basic creed of Christia- nity, the Holy Trinity. This is not to deny that the Christian message, the Kerygma, is not pure description of a situation or events, but it is in con- tinuity with the revelation of God’s acting. This process of progressive reve- lation, however, can only uncover and interpret the person of Jesus but cannot go beyond the self-understanding of Jesus. CHRISTOLOGICAL CONTENT OF THE SYNOPTIC GOSPELS We shall, therefore, examine the Christological content of the syno- ptic tradition and then see in what background and under what streams of inlfuences that Christological material has developed into the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and the Trinity.”4 In Mark, there is one passage where Jesus asserts that he is the Christ (Messiah) (14 : 62), two passages where he uses the term “the son” (as son of God) (12 : 6; 13 : 32) with ostensible reference to himself. Matthew has one such reference (11 : 25-27). There are some 33 sayings in which he uses “Son of man” as a self-designation. ‘This”, according to Fuller, “suggests that if Jesus did impart any teaching about his own person in Christological terms, such teaching was at best peripheral to his public ministry.”5 But 1. Hans Lietzmann, A History of the Early Church, trans. By Bertram Lee Woolf (New York: The World Publishing Co.) Vol. i, p. 47. 2. Ibid, p. 46. 3. Ibid, p. 46. 4. Trinity is the fundamental dogma of Christianity, Other doctrines such as atonement, original sin. Baptism and eucharist are only subordinate, and there- fore reasons of space i intend to deal only with the doctrine of Trinity. 5. Reginald H, Fuller, The Foundations of New Testament Christology, (London: Lutterworth Press, 1965), p. 103. 22 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS this is all that we have and though significantly small, yet even if these sayings provide us with the essentials of the Trinity, the progressive reve- lation, will unveil the mystry. Jesus was born of a Jewish mother, spoke Aramaic, the ecclesiastical language of the Jews of the eastern Diaspora, quoted from Old Testament and preached to the Jews. He “was not a Christian, but a Jew, and his preaching is couched in the thought forms and imagery of Judaism, even where it is critical of traditional Jewish piety”.1 So it is only reasonable to seek the meanings of Jesus words in pre-Christian Judaism. This is what we shall do. SON OF GOD The king was adopted as the son of God in the Assyrian ideology. This form was taken up into the Yahwistic theology of Isreal.2 In the Isreali tradition Isreal itself is spoken of as the son of Yahweh (Exod. 4 : 22 b – 23 a;Has. 11 : i). The term son of God was later taken up into the Messianology of pre-Christian Judaism.3 “It meant”, as Fuller has pointed out, “not a metaphysical relationship, but adoption as God’s vice-gerent in his Kingdom.”4 Jesus did not alter the situation and did not reinterpret the term as a self-designation. In the parable of the vineyard (Mark 12 : 6) “son” stands for God’s final, eschatological mission. Or perhaps the Parable is an allegory of the church on the history of salvation. Mark 13 : 32 also does not throw any new light. The word “son” is used here in Jesus’ disclaimer of knowledge of the date of the End. The reference to “son” in Matthew I I : 25-27 is, perhaps the most important. But all that it admits is a “Unique” Sonship to which Jesus was privileged to admit others through his ministry. There is an interesting discussion on the subject by Hugh Anderson. He says, “criticism has found itself in the shaky position of having to buttress its arguments for the authenticity of the one (Mathew 11 : 27) by appeal to the other (Mark 13 : 32). There is indeed a certain pathes in the extreme desire of some critics to defend the authenticity of such a saying as Matthew 11 : 27, as though Christian faith could only continue to 1. Rudolf Bultmam, Primitive Christainity in its Contemporary Setting pp 71-72 2. See 2 Sam. 7 : 14 and the Royal Psalm 2 : 7. 3. The Dead Sea Scrolls have provided evidence to support this view. 4. Reginald H. Fuller, The Foundations of New Testament Christo/ogy, p. 32. THE REVIEWOF RELIGIONS 23 live out of the fact, the historically verified fact, of Jesus’ own conscious- ness of Sonship to God.”1 SON OF MAN The literature on the subject is voluminous. It may be safe to say that the evidence “indicates that the figure of the Son of man as the pre-existent divine agent of judgement and salvation was embedded in the pre-Christian Jewish apocalyptic tradition.”2 Taking the evidence as conclusive the question arises whether Jesus used the term in its bibilical sense at all, or does it simply reflect current conversational usage in Aramaic in which it meant “man” or “one” such as the German “man sagt”. In that case “The son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8 : 20) would either mean “I have nowhere to lay my head” or “one has nowhere to lay ones head.” While Bultmann3 holds the view that Jesus used it in this sense Fuller 4 has refuted it and insists that he used it in its pre-Christian Jewish apocalyptic tradition. If so, did Jesus use it as a self-designation? The answer is uncertain. Bultmann5 points out that there is an inner inconsistency wih- in these sayings and since Jesus could have not been inconsistent as some- times to distinguish between himself and the Son of man and sometime to equate himself with that figure, only the passages in which the distinction is drawn, or the identification not asserted, are authentic.* The examination of the two most important titles, ‘Son of God’ and ‘Son of man’ has failed to recover Jesus’ self-understanding and establish the Holy Trinity. There are five more titles, (i) Christ, (ii) Son of David, (iii) Servant, (iv) Kyrios and (v) Prophet. Jesus never used the term ‘Servant’ as self-designation, the examination of the rest would, though be interesting, not lead us to any positive results about his position in the Trinity or the Holy Trinity itself. It may perhaps, be reasonable to infer that there is no mention of the Holy Trinity in the synoptic Gospels. This explains “Bultmann’s apathy towards the historical Jesus and his repeated insistence that there is no good theological reason for trying to penetrate behind the kerygma. (and) for faith to faston onto Jesus’ conception of himself as Messiah or Son of Man as a historical fact is to lose faith’s character of personal commitment.” 1. Jesus and Christian Origins. A commentary on Modern Viewpoints,(New York: Oxford University Press, 1964), p. 158. 2. Reginald H. Fuller, The Foundations of New Testament Christology, p. 42. 3. Rudolf Bultmann, Theology and the New Testament, trans. By Kendrick Grobel (London: S.C.H. Press Ltd., 1959) V.I., p. 30. 4. Reginald H. Fuller, The Foundation of New Testament Christology, p. 43. 5. Rudolf Bultmann,Theology V.I. p. 30. 6. Rudolf Bultmann, Theology, V.I , pp. 29 f. 7. Hugh Anderson, Jesus and Christian Origins, p. 149 and 161. 24 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS POST EASTER DEVELOPMENT The resurrection of Jesus, as Lietzmann has pointed out “does not come within the province of historical enquiry”,1 “It is a confession of faith and a proclamation, not a historical report.”2 But we are certain of one thing; that the disciples underwent an experience which gave them the conviction that God has raised their master from the dead. This much is essential to reconstruct the history. What is a historical fact is the speech, probably one of the earliest, attributed to Peter in Acts 3 : 12-26. “In language and conception”, say Wright and Reginald, “it possesses a rugged antiquity which makes it difficult to believe that it is a free composition of the author of Luke-Acts.”3 It presents Jesus as God’s Servant, The last sentences of Peter’s speech are significant. He said: You are the heir of the prophets, you are within the covenant which God made with your fathers, when he said to Abraham, “And in your offspring all the families on earth shall find blessing.” When God raised up his Servant, he sent him to you first, to bring you blessing by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.4 Peter’s sermon is within the frame work of our examination of Jesus’ self-understanding. In Acts 2 : 36 Peter proclaimed: “God has made this Jesus whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” Peter’s christology was not at variance with the Jewish tradition. And so “the eschatological community did not split off from Judaism as though it were conscious of itself as a religious new society. In the eyes of their contemporaries they must have looked like a Jewish sect, and for the historian they appear in that light too.”5 Our sources regarding the initial impact of Christianity on the Jewish people are rathe meager. The early church probably drew its membership from most of the diverse elements6 within the first century. But Jews as a whole did not accept Jesus as Christ. Historians seem to make heavy weather of the controversy regarding the conversion of Gentiles. This, most probably, is the influence of New Testament writings e.g. Act XV. Side tracked by that controversy we tend to forget that the Jews rejected Jesus both before and after crucifixion. The Jewish “nation as a whole could 1. Hans Lietzmann, A History of the Early Church, Vol. I, p. 62. 2. G. Ernest Wright and Reginald H. Fuller, The Book of the Acts of God, (New York: Double Day & Co. Inc. 1960), p. 287. 3. Ibid. p. 292. 4. Acts,3: 25-26. All New Testament references are from the New English Bible. 5. Rudolf Bultmann, Primitive Christanity in its Contemporary Setting, p. 175. 6. Judgement regarding the Qumran Community should wait till more positive historical evidence is available. THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 25 only see in such public ideals as those of Jesus, an abnormal and even dangerous phantasy; the majority, who followed the Pharisees and Scribes (Tannaim), the leader of the popular party in the nation, could on no account accept Jesus’teaching.”1 The Jewish rejection of Jesus was complete. What did Jesus do for the Jews asks a great Jewish scholar and then answer the question. Had he come and said: Instead of religion alone, I give you here science and art as national possessions independent of religion; instead of scripture commentaries – learning and poetry, likewise indepen- dent of religion; instead of ceremonial laws – grown so appressive as to crush the warmer religious feelings – a practical and theoretical secular culture, national and humanistic. He Jesus come with such a Gospel his name would have endured as a blessing among his nation. But he did not come and enlarge his nations knowledge, and art, and culture, but to abolish even such culture as it possessed, bound up with religion, a culture which the Scribes and Pharisess (unlike the Prophets who though they ignored it in their wider political purview, did not annul it) seized upon and held tightly, as though it were the single anchor of safety left to the nation – a nation not minded to be only a religious community but a real nation, possessed of land, a state and authority in every sense. Civil power! that is naught: “Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God that which is God’s;” it is not worth while to fight against the political oppression of Rome, for the political freedom of the nation. What does it matter if you do pay tribute to Caesar, if only you are at peace with the Lord your God!2 These reasons for rejecting Jesus are given by a great nineteenth century Jewish scholar and are an eloquent commentary on the Jewish attitude towards life and religion. Jews in Jesus’ time were no different and to all these reasons which Dr. Klausner has given now in our age Jesus had already replied: “It is written, that man shall not live by bread alone.” 3 1. Joseph Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth, His Life, Times and Teaching, (New York: MacMillan, 1925), p. 376. Chapter III of the Eighth Book deals in detail the reasons for this rejection. 2. Joseph Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth, p. 373. 3. Luke 4:4, Authorised version. 26 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS But it was Jesus’ concept of God which was most repugnant to the Jews. Jesus taught his disciples that they must love their enemies as well as their friends, since their heavenly Father “makes his sun rise on good and bad alike, and sends the rain on the honest and the dishonest.”1 For the Jews it meant that God is not absolute righteousness, but the good2 before whom is no evil. “He is not the God of justice, inspite of his Day of Judge- ment: in other words, he is not the God of History. “3 In the Jewish con- ception of God the wicked are not worthy of God’s sun. To quote Klausner again, God is good; but he also requires justice. He is “merciful and com- passionate, long suffering and of great kindness;:: but none the less, “He will by no means acquit the guilty” Jesus’ idea of God is the very reverse…. such an idea of God Judaism could by no means accept.”4 The poignancy of Lukes words now becomes apparent: And she brought-forth her first born son, and wrapped him in swadd- ling clothes, and laid him in a manger: because there was no room for them in the inn.5 IN THE MANGER It is not insignificant that we know very little of the mother-church in Judea. Most of the twelve disciples, who saw and heard Jesus, who in fact were personally trained by him, disappear from history. The story of the Aramaic-speaking Christians is still to be discovered and told.6 The exact relation between Peter, the leading apostle whom Jesus had specially entrusted the Church’s mission, and ‘the Lord’s brother’, James the Just, is obscure. 1. Matthew, 5 : 45. 2. Mark. 10 : 18. Luke 18 : 19. 3. Joseph Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth, p. 379. 4. Ibid, p. 380. 5. Luke, 2 : 7 . Authorised version. 6. I have deliberately avoided all discussion of The Dead Sea Scrolls, the Essenic belief and such related matters. To distinguish between sound scholarship and propaganda is a specialist’s job hence this hesitance. Having read J.C.L. Gibson’s “From Qumran to Edessa” (The annual of leeds University Oriental Society Vol. V) one gets the feeling that Gibson is trying to say less than what he knows. There is no doubt, however, that when the Qumran manuscripts are properly recognised and evaluated in relation to the books in the edited and evaluted in relation to the books in the edited and expurgated New Testament some fundamental changes might take place in the history of Christian dogma. Any reference to Ebionites and the Syrian ‘Nazarenes’ has laso been left out for reasons of space. THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 27 But “the decisive step was taken”, Bultmann tells us, “when the good news of Jesus, crucified and risen, the coming judge and agent of redemp- tion, was carried beyond the confines of Palestinian Judaism, and Christian congregations sprang up in the Graeco-Roman world”.1 Paul2 was the right missionary to the Gentiles. It was he who had forced the issue of circumcision and the law. It was his achievement to vindicate the equal status of Gentile Christians and to win from the Jeru- salem leaders the recognition for these converts as full members of the Church. “He understood this also to imply recognition of his own standing as the apostle of the Gentiles.”3 Paul, which is the Roman cognoman of Saul, was born before 10 B.C. of Jewish parents. It is claimed that he had received the rabbinical training. It is not proved by independent sources and certainly not from the Jewish sources. That he was a disciple of Gamaliel I, the mild Hillelite is based on Acts 22 : 3. Though Paul claimed to be, “a Hebrew born and bred,4!’ he seemed to be a Hellenist in thought and sentiment. His quotations from th Old Testament taken from the Greek version do not indicate familiarity with the original Hebrew text. The basic sources of his eschatological and theological system seem to be the Book of Wisdom, other Apocrypha and Philo. While on the road to Damascus, commissioned with the task of exterminating the Christian movement, Paul had a vision in which Jesus appeared to him, saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”5 In consequence of this vision he became “my (Christ’s) chosen instrument to bring my (Christ’s) name before the nations6 and their kings, and before the people of Isreal. I (Christ) myself will show him all that he must go through for my (Christ’s) name’s sake.”7 Paul connected his conversion with his call to be an apostle to the Gentiles. “But then in his good pleasure God, who had set me apart from birth and called me through his grace, chose to reveal his Son to me and through me, in order that I might pre- claim him among the Gentiles:”8 Paul saw Jesus in a vision, “was caught 1. Rudolf Bultmann, Primitive Christianity, p. 175. 2. I have purposely avoided Johnnine literature and the Fourth gospel’s affinties on the Hellenistic side, namely Gnosticism. This subject repuires another paper. 3. Henry Chadwich, The Early Church, (harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1967), p. 20. 4. Philippians. 3 : 5 The Authorised version translation “A Hebrew of the Hebrew’, to which the Jews seem to take exception, is obviously not correct. 5. Acts9:5, This may be compared with I. Samuel 26 : 18. 6. Authorised version has used “Gentiles” instead of ‘nations’. 7. Acts, 9 : 15 : 16. 8. Gal, 1 :615. 28 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS up as far as the third heaven was caught up into Paradise, and heard words so secret that human lips may not repeat them.”1 Evidently this picture of Jesus must have occupied a prominent place in his mind, just as Mithra did in the minds of Jewish mystices. It is surprising that immediately after his conversion he kept aloof for three years and avoided a meeting with other apostles who had seen Jesus in the flesh. It is only after three years of solitude in the Arabian desert that he decided to go to Jerusalem “Two points are noteworthy” about this visit, observes, Bruce,” the careful specification of the date and duration (15 days) of the visit, and the not less careful exclusion of the other aprostels from participation in it. St. Paul wishes it to be understood that it was a private friendly visit to Peter alone, in which the other apostles had no concern. To be strictly accurate, he admits that he did see James, the Lord’s brother, but he alludes to the fact in such a manner as to suggest that the meeting was accidental and of no significance.”2 There is no doubt that he wanted to emphasize not only “that both his gospel and his call came to him direct from the hand of God3, but also — and this is very important — he did not want to be obligated to them for his authority, in the eye-witness account of Jesus’ ministry. The eleven apostles, their witness and their experience were of no consequence to him. In the absence of any historical evidence, one may legitimately infer that his spiritual experience deepened in the solitude in the desert, his profound understanding of the Gospel which he received “by revela- tion”4 and strengthened by his learning was definitely at variance with the interpretation of the Eleven.5 Documents, oral reports and rituals, Nie- buhr observes, can be understood differently in different contexts. These forms are carriers of revelation only as long as they are interpreted in a community of selves who share the same internal history out of which they came.6 The eleven apostles and Paul did not share the same internal history. He wanted to make a clean break from and Palestinian Christians, and from the “Christianity” of these Eleven — especially the “national” flavour of the Palestinian Chiristianity. That he did, though he encountered initial diffi- culties. Thus, after the martyrdom of Stephen, a new version of Christianity grew up. Its centre was Antioch, its language was Greek and it was distinct from the original Palestinian version. Paul got his opportunity when Barnabas went down to Tarsus to seek him, and brought him to Antioch to take part in the movement that had begun there.7 1. 2 Cor 12 : 24. 2. Alexander Balmain Bruce, St. Paul’s Conception of Christianity, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1984) p. 42. 3. ibid. 4. Gal, 1 : 12. 5. See reference to Weizsacker, The Apostolic Age, opp. 95-98 vide Alexander Balmain B ruce, St. Paul’s conception of Christianity, p. 45. 6. H.Richard Niebuhr, The Meaning of Revelation (New York: Mac Millan 1941) p. 31. 7. Acts, 11 : 25. THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 29 The use of Greek language made Paul’s task easy. It left the door to the Hellenization of Christianity wide open. Greek conceptions invaitably entered, alongwith the Greek vocabulary, into the sphere of thought and the philosophical connotations of innumerable terms led to the philosophizing development of Christology. It was the Gentile Churches which produced all the four gospels. The Chruch leaders after the Apostles, as far as one can discern them, are all like Luke, Titus and Timothy — Greeks by race and culture. BAPTISM OF HELLENISM The Jews called for miracles and the Greeks looked for wisdom1. Paul decided to present Christ in the form of personified wisdom mediating between God and World.2 Baptism, which was a symbolic rite suggestive of purification took a new significance under the Greek mystery religions. The person that enters the water and emerges again undergoes an actual transformation, dying with Christ to the world of flesh and sin, and rising with him to the world of spirit, the new life of the resurrection.3 Equalization of the Son with the Father marks an innovation in the Pauline teaching.4 In a subsequent passage of the first letter of Paul to Corinthians5 the Holy Spirit is added. We have already noticed the idea of the Trinity in the Hellenistic gods. Paul’s conception of the crucifixion of Jesus also can be traced to a mystic Union with the Deity by means of sacramental rites. Although Paul accepts the Palestinian Church view of the atoning power of the death of Jesus as the suffering Messiah6, the crucifi- xion of Jesus as the son of God assumes for him at the very beginning the character of a mystery revealed to him, “a stumbling-block to Jews and folly to Greeks”7. It is to him a cosmic act by which God becomes recon- ciled to Himself. The man-God idea was not new to the Hellenistic world. Only Hellenistic pantheism could give Paul the idea of the “Pleroma”, “the fullness” of the Godhead dwelling in Christ.8 1. ; Cor, 1 : 22. 2. 1 Cor, 8 : 6 St. Paul presents the theology of salvation under five main images; redemption, justification, reconciliation, victory and sacrifice. But it is in Paul’s conception of the redemptive history that we have the real key to his life and thought. 3. Rom, 6 : 1-10. 4. ; Cor, 8 : 6. 5. 1 Cor, 12 : 3. 6. Rom, 3 : 25. 7. 1 Cor, 1 : 23. 8. Col, 2 : 9. 30 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS “The New Testament is overshadowed by the presence within it of no less than fourteen Pauline or near-Pauline writings. There is singularly little materials of a Hellenistic character earlier in the date than the Pauline writings and therefore indubitably free from Pauline influence.” There is no doubt that Paul played a major role in Hellenising Christianity. But did he have an alternative? The Jews had rejected Christ and Paul could foresee that the small Jerusalem Church was about to collapse. It came in A.D. 66. The rebels in that insurrection massacred such Jewish Christians as they caught in Palestine. The massacres were repreated again during the rebellion of Bar-Cochoa. Outside Palestine, Jewish Christianity was to wither away during the next generation. The old Hellenistic Judaism, which had furnish- ed great stalwarts to the Apostolic Chruch was to be reabsorbed in the new Pharisaic community to be closed to any outside influence. This explains the haste with which Paul rushes around the world. If the new Gospel was to survive, it must be rooted afresh in a new soil before its roots are cut by the destruction of the Jerusalem Church. ‘The astonishing ‘leap’ of Christi- anity from one world to the other between A.D. 50 and 60 was made only just in time.”2 By this transplantation Paul achieved two things he saved the “Gospel” and gave to the Hellenistic religions the two things which they lacked, immortality and Holy love. A great civilization unsuccessfully trying to work out its own salvation through its magnificient system of philosophy was given a soul, a revealed God, Christ was saved from a second crucifixion, but Christianity was crucified to save Greek civilization. Our great cummu- lative heritage of today, known as Western civilization is nothing but the evolution of the Greeco—Roman civilization rebon “in Christ”. The point philosophers like Radhakrishnan,3 theologians like Dom Gregory Dix,4 and historians of comparative religion like Farnell,5 miss is that the conflict is not between two cultures like Eastern and Western or Syriac and Greak but between the intuitive experiemtal religious insight, and faith in an authoritative revelation. The inward sentiment or psychic emotionof the different religions depend on the personal emotional relation of the individual towards the godhead. Has the God has discovered by a philosophical process in metaphysical terms or is it a personal experience as a result of revelation? 1. C. Ernest Wright and Reginald H. Fuller, The Book of the Acts of God, p. 301. 2. Dom Gregory Dix, Jew and Greek, A study in the Primitive Church, (Glasgow: Daccre Press, Adam and Charles Black, 1955), p. 55. 3. S. Radhakrishnan, Eastern Religions and Western Thought. (London: Oxford University Press, 1940). 4. Dom Gregory Dix, Jew and Greek. 5. Lewis R. Farnell, Greece and baby/one, (Edinburgh T & T Clark, 1911). THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 31 God is not a product of human imagination. He reveals Himself. Once we lose contact with the living God, then and only then, different philoso- phical interpretations, cultural influences and mythologies begin to influence our understanding of Him. We are then left with ritual, theology and syllogistic hair-splitting. It is only incidental that while the Aryan mind — Greek or Hindu — reduces everything into its constituent elements and does not rest unless everything is analysed, the Syriac or Arab mind assumes and accepts on trust certain basic facts and is content with faith on things which transcend normal human experience. Observations of the Promised Messiah, peace be on him “Let the world exert itself and gather all its strength and its hosts. Let all Christian soveriegns and their governments combine, and let Europe and America join together, and let all wealthy and powerful nations combine and unit together to frustrate me in the achievement of this purpose, even then I state, in the name of God, that they would fail completely against me. In response to my prayers and plans God will frust- rate all their projects and plans and machinations, and, through me and my disciples and followers, God will uphold the honour of Islam for the purpose of establishing the truth of this pro- phecy on account of the name of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him. He will not leave the world alone till Islam is extablished once more in the world in its full glory and till Muhammad, the Messanger of Allah, peace be on him, is accepted as the living Prophet of the world.” “If you will adhere to truth and faith, angels will instruct you, heavenly comfort will descend upon you, you will be helped by the Holy Spirit, God will be with you at every step and no one will be able to overcome you. Await the grace of God stead- fastly. Listen to abuse and keep silent. Endure being beaten and be steadfast. As far as possible do not resist evil, so that you may be accounted acceptable in heaven. ” THE PROMISED MESS/A H (Tazkaratush Shahadatain) 32 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS ISRAEL – PROPHETS AND PROPHECIES True Muslims are the real heir to the Holy Land BY M.A.SHAH Few subjects other than Israel arouse greater sentiment in the hearts of the Muslim world; yet it continues to be the only existence against which there is the greatest division of action amongst the Muslims. Indeed was it not for this disunity there would have been little to support its survival in the very heart of the Muslim world. Passionate articles written by Muslims about it are no more than water off a duck’s back. As long as Muslims continue to adhere to the practice of mere lip profession of their faith the spirit and action will lag behind the words. The purpose of this article is to review the history leading up to the creation of the Zionist state of Israel and some prophecies about it within the confines of brevity so that the reader may co-relate these to the present situation. EARLY HISTORY Strictly speaking, Jews are descendants or members of the Biblical tribe or people called Yehudah or Judah. The Hebrew adjective YEHUDI came to mean the followers of Judaism in general. The designation of ‘Jews’ as a race in the present context where they hail from Russia to USA is scientifically fallacious, and we have therefore resorted to the more accurate definition of the Holy Quran of the Beni-Israel or Israelites unless we refer to the intermingled Jewish people. The Old Testament presents the Israelites as the descentants of Abram or Abraham (meaning ‘the Father’) who is said to have come from Mesopotamia into Palestine about 2000 B.C. and to have lived to the age of 175. Abraham, the Great Patriarch, was born at Ur of the Chaldees as the son of Terah. Abraham is the progenitor of the two great peoples, the Israelites and the Ishmaelites, who equally revere him. When Abraham’s wife, Sarah, heard the sad news of the impending destruction of lot’s people, she became fearful and the Almighty God has- tened to give her the glad tidings, in the words of the Holy Quran: And his wife was standing by and she too was frightened, whereupon We gave her glad tidings of the birth of Isaac, and, after Isaac, of Jacob. ( I I : 72) THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 33 Jacob (or Yaqub) was born in canaan and acquired the name of Yisroel or Israel, and the Hebrews, traditionally his descendant, are called Beni-Israel, the Children of Israel. One of his sons was Joseph (Yusuf). Compelled by famine, Jacob (Israel) and his family descended to Egypt, where they were re-united with Joseph, who had been sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. Joseph subsequently achieved great success, least of all in the interpretation of dreams. In Egypt, the Beni-Israel soon were reduced to slavery. With the advent of the law-giving prophet Moses and through him their escape from this condition, their exodus through the Sinai Desert north into Palestine with betrayal, etc. is well-known to the readers of this magazine and need not be repeated here. It is important, nonetheless, to remember that this Promised Land for the Jews was already inhabited and therefore their claim to it as a birth-right excludes the rightful des- cendants of those that were at least then settled in that land. After Moses may be quoted Joshua, the Judges, and Saul who created their impact on the land. Saul was succeeded by David who invoked reli- gious devotion and crushed the Philistine menace greatly extending the borders of the state in all directions. David’s son Solomon, developed Jerusalem (first captured by David) as capital of the country and constru- cted the temple. Discontent and the devisive tendencies, long apparent in the Israelites, finally manifested themselves and the ten northern tribes broke away under Jersboam to set up what came to be known as the King- dom of Israel which never enjoyed political stability with intermittent wars and dynastic disension. The Southern Kingdom of Judah with its capital of Jerusalem had numerous prophets such as Isaiah, etc. By 586 B.C. the reborn empire of Babylania reduced the country to subjection, destroyed the Temple and deported a large population. When the Baylonian Empire was overthrown by the Persian Cyrus the Great, some Israelite returned to reconstruct the Temple. Persian suzeranity was replaced by Hellenistic the Ptolemies, the Seleucids till the Hasmonean revolt and it finally surrendered to the Roman domination. It was then that the last prophet in the form of Jesus arrived to arrest the evils that enveloped the Israelite but little did they heed to his message. The proliferation of sects and periodic revolts led to a short-lived indepen- dence before the Romans returned to destroy Jerusalem and the Temple (AD70). The centre of Jewish life transferred to Galilee in the north. The rivalry of expanding Christianity resulted in the decline of the Jewish population in Palestine and other centres of Jewish life outside the country (the Diaspora) began to grow in Egypt, Rome, the Balkans, Asia Minor, Gaul, Spain, Rhineland, etc. some of which had become established much earlier (one may quote Jesus’s journey across Afghanistan and Kashmir in